First Speech: Matt Williams MP

Member for Hindmarsh, South Australia

18 November 2013

Mr WILLIAMS (Hindmarsh) (15:41): As I deliver my maiden speech to the chamber, I wish to thank the people in the electorate of Hindmarsh for placing their trust in me to represent them. I am committed to representing them with diligence, determination and dedication over the next three years of this parliament, and hopefully, if I live up to the commitments to them, for some time beyond. I am honoured, privileged and proud to represent Hindmarsh, a place that has an exceptionally strong sense of community, a place that comprises and welcomes so many people of many different ethnic backgrounds, a place where small businesses drives much of the local economy, a place where hard-working people hope for a better future from their families and a place that I and my family are proud to call home.

With this new government rests the hopes of the people of Hindmarsh. On September 7 they voted for change for themselves and for Australia. I believe we have a collective vision and focus on long-term strategies. I want to ensure that Hindmarsh and Australia will be even better places for our children and their children. In my new role, I aim to deliver the best results to make their hopes a reality. As the member for Hindmarsh, I will listen to my electorate and represent my constituents to the best of my ability to ensure their full participation in the parliamentary process. I want to acknowledge the work of the previous member for Hindmarsh, Steve Georganas, and before him, Chris Gallus, the last and until now only Liberal member for Hindmarsh. I hope I am able to make a lasting contribution to our local community just as she did.

Hindmarsh is nestled between the city of Adelaide and the sea. With Adelaide airport at its centre, Hindmarsh is the first place that most visitors to Adelaide experience. Hindmarsh was named after the Rear Admirable Sir John Hindmarsh, a naval officer, who was the first governor of South Australia. It has great natural beauty. Kilometres of white sandy beaches with dunes and waterways including the River Torrens, beautiful parks and gardens, quality sporting facilities and items of outstanding heritage cover the electorate. A great number of seniors, service and social organisations make Hindmarsh a far richer and more supportive community. As one example, my young children, Sascha and Joshua, are currently benefiting from the guidance the West Beach Surf Club provides.

Our vibrant multicultural community is an integral part of our society, from the migrants who left war-torn Europe after World War II, particularly Greece and Italy, to those from Asia and more recently from Africa. Migrants provide Hindmarsh with an almost unrivalled richness of cultures and experiences and they will continue to have a significant impact in our community. Having lived and worked in Europe, I value the lessons I have learned from different cultures, values and perspectives. As a 17-year-old, I was lucky enough to live under the guidance of three very special Rotarian host families in Dusseldorf Germany, the Muller-Stulers, the Michaels and the Meyersieks, who all taught me so much in such a small space of time. The independence and confidence the host families fostered in me has held in good stead and helped me to develop into the person I am today.

The people of Hindmarsh have dreams and aspirations that I share to give future generations an even better life than we have. We must leave a legacy for those who come after us to provide them with the opportunity to be rewarded for their hard work and achievements.

Demographically, Hindmarsh is one of the oldest electorates in Australia. As we know, senior Australians continue to play an important role in our community and families. After a lifetime of work and effort, they deserve support and quality service delivery. Consideration of the health and aged care interface and innovative solutions will be required to address the challenges of aged care.

We also have a responsibility to ensure that we meet the needs of the people from whom we have inherited this great country while providing every incentive and opportunity for people to be self-sufficient through as much of their lives as is possible.

Future reforms must continue to seek improvements in our tax system to best reflect the constant changes in our economy and social infrastructure needs. We need to create opportunities for those who otherwise would miss out. We need to find better ways to give people reliant on welfare a chance to continue to our society. As Sir Robert Menzies stated, we need 'to give them a chance in life to make them not leaners but lifters'.

But it is not just the role of government to help the less fortunate in our society. As individuals, we can take our own leads and, while I will be working hard for the people of Hindmarsh, I want to maintain my efforts to help others less fortunate.

For more than 10 years I have raised money for charities and not-for-profits through a number of events. While recognising there may be a more popular and famous cyclist in our chamber, the most significant event for me was a charity bike ride in South Australia's beautiful Clare Valley which raised close to $100,000.

In life it is important to be part of a cause larger than ourselves. I salute Australia's many volunteers and commend the new wave of Australian philanthropists, including those working with our tertiary institutions to better our society and productive capacity.

It is worth reflecting on the position enunciated by the German philosopher Georg Hegel that 'an individual develops fully by sharing in and drawing on the moral, spiritual and intellectual resources of the society of which they are part of'.

Innovation, knowledge and creativity are the new drivers of economic growth in developed nations around the world. But whatever economic model we pursue, we should seek to combine a sustainable environment and a sustainable economy.

I believe we should explore population policies that focus more on building regional centres. The Abbott government has made clear its intention to deliver on infrastructure, and there is an important role for all members of parliament to ensure the right infrastructure exists, whether that be hospitals, schools or roads. We must take into account our environmental and social capacity but also our potential in the areas of tourism and agribusiness.

I have always held strong beliefs that we should respect the individual rights of others and their freedoms and, in the words of John Stuart Mill, the state only has the right to intervene in the lives of individuals to prevent harm to others.

It is through the work of individuals that opportunity and hope is created for all of our citizens. By building a strong and stable economy, government has an important role to play in providing the necessary support for all Australians.

As former Prime Minister John Howard said in his maiden speech:

… it is only through the creation of community wealth by the efforts of individuals … that it is possible for governments to undertake social welfare and to fund their operations.

Nobody likes being taxed but people will respect a government that spends the people's money responsibly and in an effective manner. In this way government is no different from a household or a business: it must live within its means.

I want to say a few words about small business, an issue so relevant to so many people in Hindmarsh. My mother was a small business owner and my wife is a small business owner. I understand the hard work required, the risk small business owners take and the frustrations they experience, particularly with unnecessary regulation. Red tape is making it difficult for many small businesses. By cutting red tape and letting small business do what they do best, we will create a more vibrant and entrepreneurial economy.

I look forward to working for the 12,000 small businesses in Hindmarsh, their staff and families. I know they welcomed Prime Minister Abbott's statement that Australia is again open for business.

The need to improve our productive capacity is a major challenge for our country. If we fail to heed the lessons of the past and ignore the need to improve our productivity then we will be left behind as our Asian neighbours become even more competitive. We need to foster an environment where innovative sectors can grow and entrepreneurs can flourish. We need to seek and encourage greater business and technological innovations. Through smart regulation and competitive pressures, this can be achieved. But it will only be possible through the coming together of business and industry leaders and policymakers.

Many of our companies are facing challenging times with higher costs, an uncertain economic future and competition from overseas. Fewer taxes and regulation will provide some relief, but I think it is worth asking ourselves as consumers, what can we do?

One thing we can do is promote the best that Australia has to offer. I know from personal experience that South Australian made Rossi Boots or RM Williams boots, which I am wearing today, are superior in quality to those made overseas and, importantly, they are value for money.

I am also certain that the members of this chamber are no different from the rest of Australia in recognising how good Coopers beer really is. It is made by the largest Australian owned beer company, not to mention our world-renowned Australian made wines. Wines from McLaren Vale, the Clare Valley, the Barossa and the Coonawarra are amongst our best.

While we struggle with the competitive and strategic challenges facing some of our major businesses in South Australia, we should recognise that the likes of Santos, Beach Energy and ASC have strong futures in the energy and Defence sectors. Our mining and resource opportunities are significant, and we will benefit from the removal of regressive taxes to help promote more investment.

Indeed from the smallest to the largest companies in Australia, there are so many businesses that reflect the strength of Australian innovation and creativity. If every Australian purchased more Australian made goods, it would help our companies, provide local jobs and incomes for families.

We have a choice, we have the opportunity and we have the quality goods and services. At the end of the day it is up to us to drive the future as the future is in our hands

As stated earlier, I believe in hope. I am an optimist, believing that no matter someone's start in life we should afford them every opportunity to succeed. That is why education is an area very close to my heart and one to which I want to contribute during my time in the national parliament.

My father is one of those many hardworking and committed teachers. To improve the quality of our students and their learning, things must change. Funding is always important and naturally there are instances when more is required. But it is not all about money. Reform should be undertaken to ensure more accountability in the quality of teaching. We should introduce more programs to better cater to the needs of gifted pupils and place more emphasis on early childhood development, given how important the first five years are to a child's life. Principals should have the ability to manage their schools the way they need to. I will work tirelessly to support our minister and education agenda.

Australia is a nation with limitless potential. We have many world-class businesspeople, entrepreneurs, professionals and scientists. In my doorknocking to win the seat of Hindmarsh, I continued to emphasise my drive to give our children the opportunities to work in the new economy of the future, where the internet is a great force of social interaction and commerce in the 21st century, where franchises are popping up in waves around our nation, where we will prosper by the clever use of our knowledge and high-level skills and where our neighbours have more spending power than ever before. Australia must take advantage of the Asian century and the growth of the Asian middle class. Their demand for our food, wine, fibre, energy and resources and education services provides a unique opportunity.

The Abbott government's new Colombo Plan and the 20-30 vision for developing Northern Australia set the right path. We must dedicate our collective efforts to maximising this opportunity. We also need to invest in the future security of our country. The many employees in the defence sector in Hindmarsh look forward to the coalition's commitment to increase defence spending to two per cent of GDP. Although the phrase is thrown around a lot, there are truly few 'nation-building projects'. The air warfare destroyers and the next generation of submarines are two such examples where Australian workers, South Australian workers, will be part of something special.

South Australian industry, workers and families, including those in Hindmarsh, stand to benefit greatly from upgrading South Road into an effective north-south transport corridor. Some of the worst stretches of South Road form the border of my electorate and I welcome the target set by our new Prime Minister and state Liberal leader Steven Marshall to see the job done within a decade.

To arrive in this place I have been well supported by many. As Nelson Mandela said, 'Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today.' I would like to acknowledge the many people who worked on the Hindmarsh campaign: my campaign team, brilliantly led by Ben with assistance from Jim, Loretta, Peter, Lou, Alex, Darren, Chelsey and Suzette; and the Liberal members, volunteers and the FEC in Hindmarsh, who were expertly led by the president, Jim Burston. I would like to thank Steven Marshall and Ian Smith for their time and counsel. To my federal colleagues, especially my friend Senator Simon Birmingham: your advice, support and guidance was outstanding. Without you, I would not be here today. Others who joined us in the battle for Hindmarsh and who will be alongside me in the years ahead, the member for Sturt, Christopher Pyne, member for Mayo, Jamie Briggs, and Senator Sean Edwards, I thank you. I am grateful to you all.

I thank the Prime Minister and his staff, expertly led by Peta Credlin, for the support they were able to provide during the campaign. I know that every time the Prime Minister came into my electorate there was an infectious enthusiasm that followed him everywhere he went. I look forward to working with the Prime Minister as he becomes Australia's infrastructure Prime Minister.

I would also like to thank the many members of the then shadow ministry for the outstanding support they provided throughout the campaign, including yourself, Madam Speaker. Brian Loughnane and Julian Sheezel from the federal secretariat and Geoff Greene in the South Australian secretariat ran a great campaign. I would like to record my thanks to them and their staff. I want to thank the Hon. Robert Brokenshire for the opportunity he gave me in politics and to my friends and former colleagues at Piper Alderman Lawyers. They showed me the value of intellectual discipline, loyalty and integrity.

To others in the business and the political world, mainly in Adelaide, but also those supporters and friends in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, I thank you. I want to pay tribute to Mike Semmler, Robert Champion de Crespigny and the late Maurice de Rohan, who was to become Governor of South Australia were it not for his untimely passing. They have been or continue to be leaders in their respective fields of religion, business and international relations, and I learnt a great deal from my time with them.

To those many friends who have assisted me throughout my life and my campaign, I want to acknowledge your positive influence and, most importantly, friendship, especially my school friends, including Jan, Luke, Michael, Ben, Daniel and Brett; university mates Lance, Peter, Sam and Dave, and Bruce, the man who got me through the Paris marathon; Linda and Ryan, who are in the gallery this afternoon; former work colleagues Matt, Dan, Jeremy and Phil; my cycling and running colleagues Andrew, Jeff and Grant; and, finally, my international mates, John, Justin and Sally, and the late Mark Autherson from my years working in London. A sincere thankyou to you all.

To my parents Philip and Ruth, I would like to thank you for instilling the values of hard work, discipline and community participation, and for providing me with a wonderful start in my life. They worked extremely hard to send my sister and me to a fine school, Immanuel College at Novar Gardens, and then they provided support for me to attend Flinders and Adelaide universities. I am eternally grateful for the sacrifice they made to provide an excellent education.

Unfortunately, my sister Angela and her family could not be here today. But her support from Singapore will not be forgotten and I am sure it will continue. I am proud of what you have achieved, Ang, and am privileged to be your brother.

To some relatively new family members in Trevor and Alison: it is wonderful to have your support. Two other special family members have been able to be make it here today: my treasured grandmother Margaret Schubert, who turns 90 next year, and my godmother and auntie Helen Miegel. Thank you for your support and guidance. The Miegel family, like ours, enjoyed many fine years in rural Australia.

As a young boy living at Naracoorte in the south-east of South Australia, my family was heavily involved in the local tennis club and it was here where I first saw the value of a good local community. I hold dear many good friends from those early years, two of whom are here: Janelle and Graeme Thompson. Naracoorte is in the electorate of Barker, which also has a new local member, my South Australian federal colleague Tony Pasin, whom I trust will be a fine member like those before him, including the former member for Barker, James Porter. James has provided fine counsel to me in recent years.

My greatest thankyou is to my wife Leanne, for encouraging me when required, for questioning me when needed and for bringing our two wonderful children, Sascha and Joshua, into this world. Leanne, you have done so much to help me and I could not have done it without you. Please keep questioning me and testing me, as this journey is one that I will be taking together with you. And let me not forget the words of a former Prime Minister—to try and phone home twice a day!

I have no doubt that the road ahead will, at times, be bumpy. I thank my staff, who have assisted me in these early days and who will be crucial to fulfilling my determination to deliver the best possible representation for the people of Hindmarsh.

As I start the journey as a member of federal parliament, I know it will be important to work with colleagues to deliver change. Hence, I want to acknowledge all new members in the class of 2013. We all come to this great institution with the right motives, no matter how different our approaches may be. I look forward to sharing this journey in making our nation better with all members of the 44th parliament, so that we can make a positive contribution to the future of all Australians.

I would like to reflect on the words of Robert F Kennedy:

Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, …

I will act to improve the wellbeing of the community and the people of Hindmarsh, to deliver a better society where hopes and aspirations are part of the reality and their future. I am proud to be here, first and foremost, to serve them. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

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